( Image Description: two people in masquerades are standing back and almost seem to be a single two headed person. Their shoulders peek out from either side, the left lower than the right, but both somehow seeming to belong to the same body. They are surrounded by an expanse of grey that provides just enough contrast to make their already striking figure even more stunning.)
In August 2020 I made my first printed work! Just before the pandemic Derek Blanks photographed Valerie and Najee in the process of feeling out a couple of new masquerades that I made for my thesis show (which never happened). Masquerade work is not limited to the creation of the objects or adornment. It extends into the embodiment of the energy or idea that the adornments call forth.
My masquerade work is very spirit led. I don’t decide to make things. I am compelled, called, required to manifest things from materials that speak to me. Often I will be in the process of making something else that I planned and spirit will say, “no, do this.” One step at a time I will be blindly led towards the completion of a work. Whole time not knowing what or why I was being asked to do things or who was asking. Not knowing what the end product would or was supposed to be. When I first began making masquerades this process was very uncomfortable. Honestly, I still struggle to release control, to let myself be led, to trust the process, to let go of the plans and intentions that I have or had. Each time I get a little better. That process of allowing my body, my hands to be a conduit for spirit during the making of the masquerades is one kind of embodiment and embodied research.
( Image Description: The image is dominated by a crowned figure. Their crown is made of a symphony of concentric circles. There are three sets of three circles visible, there seem to be more out of sight in the center of the crown or behind the head. Each set of circles is made from a translucent white open weave sinamay fabric and rimmed in raffia. The circles stand tall, but also relax into gravity. Below the crown a band raffia braided into an intricate open weave holds the crown on the head and releases a cascade of loose raffia strands and birth bark squares in varying shades of raffia brown, periwinkle brown, golden brown and a peachy almost pink brown. This cascading veil covers the eyes of the crowned one, but still allows peeks of skin to peek through. The skin is a rich brown not unlike rich, freshly turned compost. The crowned figures head is framed by a cradle of soft brown wings, with gentle folds and creases. These wings are in fact the arms of someone who wears a soft white linen that sits immediately behind and above the crown one. The hands of the person seated behind are not really visible but it is clear that they are resting on the shoulders of the crowned one. )
Then there’s the process of putting these pieces on. They are not objects. They are not inanimate. They have personalities and intentions and their own ideas about how they want to be in the world and who they will allow to carry them. They don’t work for or with just anybody. Valerie and Najee were really able to bring these works to life. Even just sitting still, they are so charged. The images that came out of those interactions are stunning on screens. They are enchantingly seductive when printed on habotai silk. The silk has this lovely sheen to it. It also carries on a beautiful conversation with the light in the room around it. The silk is very masquerade-like itself in that it can shift from being seemingly opaque to barely more than a whisper of an image that appears to be little more than a mirage. Like the sizzling shimmer that heat conjures on pavement on sweltering desert days. This conversation between the silk and the light happens right alongside a conversation between the silk and the air in the room. When the air is still, the silk is still. When the air moves, the silk breathes with it, or dances away from it like a wisp of flame flicked in the wind. The silk’s movement, like it’s interaction with light, lends it this very masquerade-like quality. The silk’s movement and interaction with light both animate an otherwise still image such that it is able to communicate the essence of the work.
Additionally, I had the images printed at a slightly larger than life scale, so they easily hold space in a way similar to the way that people would.
I’m very excited to continue experimenting with the possibilities of masquerades printed on silk as a medium unto themselves. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to find a new printer. The person that I worked with did an absolutely amazing job. He also decided that after this batch that he made for me, he would no longer be working with this particularly silk. It it very delicate and slides around a lot in the printer which can result in printing defects, mostly creases. For him as a person whose craft is printmaking, this is both very frustrating and very expensive. Each image is a little less than 6 feet long and a little less than 4 feet high--that’s a lot of ink to waste. Also a lot of time. And this silk is premium, and priced to reflect that. Hopefully when the time is right the universe will bring me into relationship with someone who has the skills and is willing to play with me and these prints.